I have always dreamed about having a book signing with people standing in line, anxious to get my autograph. Maybe that’s why I became a writer. As an author of two books – and working on my third – I have done a number of book signings with my local writers group and on my own for the past three years. And that dream has yet to come true. Still, I know how daunting it can be for a new author, so I wrote this guide to help you in the hopes that one day you may achieve your dream. I have learned a lot and many of these tips are from my experience. Read and learn.
1. You have your book published and you’re ready to do your first book signing. Your local bookstores are a good start but don’t just call them. Consider other places that might be appropriate and rather unusual. For example, because I am a medieval fantasy author, I contacted a local fantasy gaming group and a school to see if they would welcome the idea of me selling my books at their location. They were very happy to have me. I have also done book signings at the Arizona Renaissance Festival as a guest author.
2. Make sure you have plenty of business cards, book markers and flyers/postcards with all your contact information and images and description of your books. Shop around for the best prices. If you are paying for your books and marketing materials, you need to spend some time to get the best you can afford. If prices are just too high, try making your book markers using your computer and printer. For the first three years of my book selling, I did just that and they brought me sales at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. Whoever publishes your books may also offer you a deal in preparing some marketing materials.
3. Meet with the Book Manager or store representative where you want to have a book signing. Don’t just call them. You may have to bring a certain number of books to them in advance so they can be processed to sell at your event. You may also have to sign a contract and discuss payments and what you should bring with you on the day of your event. Swap business cards and be professional.
4. Once you have a location, date and time it’s time to promote. Print flyers about your event and give them out at the library, stores, friends, church and clubs. Local businesses may even post them on their windows or bulletin boards. Contact the local press and send emails to anyone that can help you forward the event information on. If you are familiar with social networking, make sure you spread the word about your book signing on places like Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. Learn about writing a news release and contact your local news media (radio, TV, etc…), Internet radio and college radio stations. I borrowed an experienced author’s news release to use as an example and Googled “writing a news release” for help. There are a lot of resources on the web for learning how to promote and market your book.
5. Get or make a blow up of your book cover and put it on a poster. Local sign shops can make you a small banner and places like Staples can print you a nice poster. These items will help with future book signing promotions. You can also share photos on social networks and blogs to spread the word about your book. Consider making or buying marketing freebies you can give away that have the image or name of your book. I once had a drawing for anyone who bought my book. The winner got a black “Realmwalkers” tote bag. The bag only cost me a few dollars and I used print/iron-on paper to put the image of my book on the bag.
6. On the day of your book signing event, bring bottled water, breath mints, your camera, a notepad and a couple of pens/markers and a snack (if it’s a long event). Arrive at least 30 minutes early so you can set up your table with your book, any decorations or signs you have. Make sure the store representative is aware you are there. Be friendly and introduce yourself to all the sales staff. To show my appreciation, I sometimes offer them a box of cookies or donuts. If I only deal with a representation and they do a lot to help me with my event, I offer them a $5 coffee gift card. Remember, anything you spend to market your book may be tax-deductible, so keep all your receipts.
7. As people enter the establishment, don’t just sit there. Shyness doesn’t sell books. Stand, smile and greet everyone who walks near your table. Shake their hands, introduce yourself and tell them you are a local author promoting your book today. If they aren’t interested they will tell you. Just keep smiling, be professional and wish them a good day. Rejection can be hard and stress may get you down, but if you really want to sell your book you must smile and be gracious whether you sell a book or not.
8. If you are a member of a writers group or book club, invite your friends to come and visit you at the event as a show of support. You may be nervous if this is your first, and a good friend will be very helpful. They can help greet customers and talk about your writing. They can watch your table if you have to leave it for a minute.
9. It’s a good practice to never autograph your copies until AFTER the customer has purchased it and returned to your table with a receipt. It would be terrible to sign the book and then the customer realizes they can’t pay for it at the cashier. Try to log the number of books sold and ask book buyers for their email address so you can add them to your Reader Email List. This way you can let them know of any future events and new books. Some will give it and others won’t. But if they give you their email, then you can’t be accused of spamming them with news about your books. Above all, respect their privacy and trust regardless of their answer.
10. Stay as long as the store representative or Book Manager will let you. Many don’t care if you stay longer as it only means more possible sales that will benefit you and the store. When the event is over, clear your table and see the store rep about your sales and payment. Unless otherwise agreed to, you usually get paid before you leave the store.
Book signings can be fun by meeting people and talking to them about your book. Be friendly and courteous at all times. Answer questions and keep a positive attitude. Some book signings will be very profitable, but all book signings can benefit you by promoting your book and getting your name out there. Use every experience to learn from and improve your marketing skills. As a new author, you have a dream. Don’t give up and keep writing! Good luck!